Charleston, South Carolina (CNN) - Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich had some kind words for a potential opponent Tuesday during a speech to tea party activists in South Carolina.
During a question-and-answer session with the Charleston Tea Party, Gingrich was asked by the moderator, a local radio host, to name "the second best candidate for the Republican nomination."
Gingrich chuckled, then singled out Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is not yet a candidate but is exploring the possibility of a White House run.
"He is a great friend of mine," Gingrich said. "I wrote the forward to his new book. He has done a great job in Texas. He is terrific job creator and he would be a very formidable candidate."
The former House Speaker said he offered similar praise for Perry during a recent Fox News interview, and was asked at the time why he was being so generous toward a potential rival for the GOP nomination.
"And I said no, the only opponent I have is Barack Obama," he recalled.
Gingrich and Perry have a friendly relationship, but some Perry advisers were among the staffers who abandoned the Gingrich campaign in June after questioning the candidate's work ethic and commitment to fundraising.
A handful of those former Gingrich advisers are now laying the groundwork for a possible Perry campaign.